Thursday, October 10, 2013

Buffalo Wild Wings' Sally Smith Transformed Restaurant Chain

When Sally Smith took over the reins of Buffalo Wild Wings in 1994, it was a small regional chain that had changed name from Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck (a reference to hometown Buffalo's blue-collar delicacy "beef on 'weck", a roast beef sandwich on German hard roll) to BW-3.

She navigated the chain to its current branding as "Buffalo Wild Wings", concentrated on certain common elements at all locations (a long back, reasonable prices, and dozens of TV monitors for communal sports-watching) and steered the brand into its enviable place as America's fastest-growing casual-dining chain.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Business Insider

Link to article:
Buffalo Wild Wings' Sally Smith Profile

Excerpt: "Smith maintains a hands-on leadership style even as the chain expands.

'I like to spend time in the field to make sure the decisions we're making in the home office are in the best interest of our guests and teams,' she said.

Her involved approach has helped the restaurant chain evolve and pull through difficult transitions, Donnan said.

In 2008, Smith officially changed the name to Buffalo Wild Wings from BW-3, which itself was an homage to the brand's original name, Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck. She also updated its logo to provide a more modern feel and changed the decor of the restaurants.

Some chains have floundered under that kind of drastic rebranding, but Smith 'has managed to pull Buffalo Wild Wings through these big transitions without losing momentum,' Donnan said.

ALL-TIME HIGH

Shares of Buffalo Wild Wings are up 29% in the past year and reached an all-time high September 30 after analyst Nick Setyan of Wedbush raised the price target, citing stable chicken wing prices and growing customer traffic in restaurants.

Buffalo Wild Wings is the fastest-growing casual dining chain in the U.S. by sales growth, according to a study by Nation's Restaurant News. In 2013, it drove its estimated sales per unit up nearly 10%, the publication reported.

The chain is also benefitting from a longer-than-usual NFL season this year, Donnan said.

CHALLENGES FOR EXPANSION

Buffalo Wild Wings' biggest challenge in growing globally will be marketing to cultures that aren't as fanatical about football as America, Donnan told us.

"Obviously, there are other sports that are popular overseas that people could gather together to watch,' Donnan said. 'But many other countries don't watch sports socially the way people do in the U.S., and watching sports together is a huge reason why people go to Buffalo Wild Wings.'

The chain will also need to make menu adjustments overseas in order to be successful, Donnan said.

But the retailer's biggest advantage for expansion is its signature chicken wing. 'Fortunately for Buffalo Wild Wings, chicken is a food that is popular all over the world,' Donnan said. 'They would be more challenged if they specialized in pork or beef products.' "

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